Safety Basics

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Why should I wear a bicycle helmet?

  • Bicycle helmetThe purpose of a helmet is to absorb the energy of an impact to minimize or prevent head injury.
  • Helmets may reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.
  • The North Carolina Child Bicycle Safety Act of 2001 requires all bicycle operators under 16 years of age to wear a bicycle helmet on public roads, public paths and public rights-of-way.
  • Always replace a helmet after a crash or impact that may have affected its integrity. Dispose of damaged helmets, don’t donate them to someone else.

Imagine the damage that could have occurred to this person if he or she had decided NOT to wear a bicycle helmet.

Always wear a properly fitting helmet.

  • Find the smallest helmet size that fits over your head.
  • Make sure the helmet fits comfortably on the top of your head, not tipped back.
  • Leave about two fingers' width between your eyebrows and the front of the helmet.
  • Don’t use pads to try to fit an overly large helmet to your head.
  • Straps should be joined just under each ear at the jaw.
  • The buckle should be snug (test this with your mouth open wide for the appropriate facial stretch).

Obey signs and signals.

  • When crossing an intersection, it is important to get a driver’s attention and acknowledgment that the driver is aware of you.
  • Use hand signals to signal your intent.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals at all times.
  • Groups of bicyclists should ride single file on curvy, hilly, and busy roads.
  • Sometimes safety requires riders to claim the lane. Where there is on-street parking, ride toward the middle of the lane to avoid getting hit by a car door opening. When climbing a curvy, hilly road, move toward the middle of the travel lane so drivers behind you see you sooner, and then move back to the right as vehicles near.

North Carolina traffic laws require bicyclists to:

  • Ride on the right and in the same direction as other traffic
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals
  • Use hand signals to communicate intended movements
  • Equip bicycles with a white front lamp (visible from at least 300 feet) and a red rear reflector or light (visible from at least 200 feet) when riding after dark
  • Secure child passengers under 40 pounds or 40 inches in a child seat or a bicycle trailer.

Riding on sidewalks is dangerous.

  • Sidewalks are for pedestrians.
  • Bicyclists travel at a greater speed and have less ability to maneuver than pedestrians.
  • Crashes with pedestrians are more likely on a sidewalk than off a sidewalk.
  • A bicyclist riding on a sidewalk cannot usually see traffic signals.
  • A bicyclist using a crosswalk at an intersection should walk the bike across.
  • Bicyclists riding on sidewalks often ride facing traffic and enter into roadways, surprising motorists.
  • Motorists do not expect to encounter bicyclists on sidewalks, so they do not look ahead for bicyclists when turning in and out of driveways or side streets.